Cheltenham Festival 2015: Arkle Challenge Trophy preview (14:05)
Un De Sceaux is a red-hot favourite to provide Irish trainer Willie Mullins with his first winner of the Arkle Challenge Trophy (14.05) at the Cheltenham Festival, but Vibrato Valtat has a rock solid profile and looks decent value to land the spoils.
The Paul Nicholls trained gelding was a quirky but talented hurdler who has taken his form to a new level over fences and now looks straightforward and the real deal.
The six-year-old has won four of his five starts over the larger obstacles, including a Grade 1 contest at Sandown, and was particularly impressive last time out at Warwick when beating Top Gamble by 4 1/2 lengths without coming off the bridle.
The son of Voix Du Nord is a strong traveller who has a potent turn of foot, but needs delivering at the latest possible moment.
That shouldn’t be difficult with the trailblazing Un De Secaux in the line-up as Vibrato Valtat will get the strong pace he needs to be seen at his best and be able to creep into the contest.
Vibrato’s sound jumping is another big plus, and if within striking distance as they turn for home it will be game on.
Un De Sceaux is undoubtedly a very exciting prospect, but he is a highly-strung sort whose attacking run-style may not be ideal for the track and it’s stiff fences.
The gelding has won nine of his 10 starts since joining Mullins with his only defeat coming when he fell on chasing debut at Thurles when well in command.
The seven-year-old made amends when cruising to a wide margin success at Fairyhouse and followed up with a sensational 15 length success when making all to beat a high class pair in the shape of Clarcam and Gilgamboa in the Grade 1 Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
Un De Sceaux looks a worthy favourite judge on the latter, but I am still to be convinced that he is clever enough to fiddle a fence when meeting it on the wrong stride and I also can’t see today’s rivals gifting him a huge lead.
Trainer Nicky Henderson has won two of the last three runnings of the 2m contest, and Josses Hill is the big hope for the Seven Barrows handler in this year’s renewal.
The seven-year-old was a top class hurdler, finishing runner-up in the Supreme at last year’s Festival before landing a Grade 2 contest at Aintree, but has not looked a natural since going chasing this season.
However, connections have not lost faith and race run at a strong end to end gallop may well see Josses Hill in a better light.